Jakarta. Agung Laksono, the coordinating minister for people’s welfare, said on Friday that the state was considering relocating people living on small Sumatran islands to places where they would be safe from tsunamis.
Those islands are vulnerable to disasters, such as the tsunami that struck the Mentawai Islands minutes after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake on Monday.
“President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has instructed me to draft a government regulation related to the relocation plan,” Agung said. “We will discuss the matter soon after disaster-hit areas are rehabilitated.”
The minister said the plan included building new housing complexes in safe areas, near hills or on high ground, for relocated families. “[Relocation sites] will not be too far from their original homes,” he said.
He assured that the government would review the proposal thoroughly before implementing it.
The plan to relocate island inhabitants was first discussed after a researcher predicted that a killer wave could hit the area.
Last year, Kerry Sieh, director of the Earth Observatory of Singapore, predicted that a colossal earthquake would hit Sumatra within 30 years, triggering a tsunami.
He said it would make the 8.2-magnitude quake in West Sumatra — which claimed over 1,000 lives in September last year — look tiny by comparison.
Based on earthquake trends from the geological analysis of coral specimens in the region, the September 2009 quake was just a precursor, Sieh said.
Meanwhile, Syamsul Muarif, head of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), said the government would soon build temporary shelters for people displaced by the tsunami.
Syamsul said the shelters would be built on the hills of Sipora Island, the smallest of the Mentawai chain. Priority would be given to those who lost their homes, the BNPB chief said.
He said the West Sumatra administration would cooperate with organizations and other donors to rebuild houses in Mentawai.
Meanwhile, Yudhoyono made a similar call during his visit to the islands on Thursday, asking officials in West Sumatra to coordinate efforts at relocating tsunami victims and rebuilding damaged homes.
The president told the officials to “involve community and religious figures” in the rehabilitation efforts.